An Unofficial Girl Scout Guide to Incarceration

Originally published by theNewerYork in Jan. 2015

three things to pray for in solitary confinement:

  1. to be the expanding sun

the orbited

solemn sphere

  1. to be luminous like the moon

so she will

gaze up at you

time travel

always time travel

  1. to be the North star

or any constellation that

can be used for navigation

when your daughter is lost

A letter you can  write to your ex-boyfriend and never send:

Dear Jimmy,

Fifty percent of the boys I have loved have had names that start with J.  Jason, Justin, James, Jim, Jimmy, and so on. This is what my bunky likes to analyze about me. The ways in which I am reliable and boring. She taught me to use colored pencils and water as eyeliner and lipstick. If I were to kiss you now it would be like I was painting your mouth. I hope you will write back this time. I hope your parole date doesn’t get canceled again. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorryi’msorrysorrysorrysorry that I got you into this. And for everything else.



Things you will be allowed to take with you from one jail to the next:

  1. The silver fish shaped scar over your shoulder blade – from one of the J’s you have loved. He crashed your car while you were laughing in the passenger seat, Big Gulp cup half full of rum and Coke.
  2. The vague feeling that you are both leaving and going at all times, and will be until you go home, but maybe you are always home, wherever you are. One thing is certain: you are prone to melancholy and it is probably all that Molly you’ve done. It’s just hard to stay positive.
  3. Your superman joke* that no one thinks is funny — you are not funny, but you tell it to every cop who transports you from holding cell to holding cell. Sometimes they laugh. Sometimes they tell you to shut the fuck up.
  4. A manila envelope of letters from everyone but Jimmy.
  5. Pictures of your daughter with her new family. Her new mother rests her hand on your baby’s shoulder, and they all look so happy.

*So, this guy walks into a bar right. He’s an architect. So he has this arm full of blueprints, and his hair is thinning a bit, and he’s just kind of pissed off. So he finds an empty table and he’s not happy that it’s so small and a bit dirty, but he has a deadline, so he drops his shit on the table and he goes up to the bar to get a pitcher of beer. When he comes back with his beer there’s a dude sitting at his table.  Handsome, tall, you know. And Handsome says, hey man, you look stressed. Whatcha working on? And the architect groans a little and says, buddy, I don’t really have time for this. okay? I have a lot of work to do. Can you go sit somewhere else? And Handsome’s like, well, why don’t you tell me what you’re working on? The architect says, buddy, I don’t want to offend you, but it would take me a long time to explain what I’m trying to do. Oh, says Handsome. Well, I couldn’t help notice that you’re a fellow architect. I thought maybe I could help. No shit, the architect says. And even though he’s not the kind of guy who likes to share a win he needs the help. So, I’m trying to build a suicide proof building, he explains. And Handsome is like, nice! My last project was a suicide proof building. It was a pain in the ass. Bullshit, the architect says. But they drink that first pitcher, and a few shots, and they get to bullshitting, exchanging stories, until finally Handsome is like, hey let’s go look at my building. And the architect agrees, especially when Handsome says it’s across the street. The bartender shakes her head and makes them settle up, even though they swear they will be back for their stuff. Once they get across the street they take the elevator up to the top floor, and then the stairs to the roof. Up on the roof, Handsome says, alright, go ahead and jump. You’ll pop right back up. Yeah, pal, I’m not that drunk, the architect says. No, I’ll show you! And Handsome backs all the way up to the far edge and then runs for the edge and leaps right over .And bounces back up. Holy shit. How the hell did you do that? Do it again! So Handsome runs and jumps three, four more times, until the architect says, fuck it. I’m gonna try. But then you need to tell me how you did it? And he’s thinking about how he might not fail at this own design now and he feels good. He’s made a friend, right? So, he backs up, swaying a bit, to the far edge. And he runs up and launches himself over the side. He falls one, two, twelve stories, and splat. Handsome walks back downstairs, giggling. The bartender, standing in the doorway, says, Superman. You are such an asshole when you drink.